After the death of their father, a group of adults reconvenes at their childhood home. That home might be a mansion, and the children of the old man might be superheroes, but the family dysfunction still exists. Umbrella Academy comes to Netflix from Jeremy Slater and is adapted from Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá’s comic of the same name. The show takes on an extreme range of styles, pulling from traditional comics like the X-Men, as well as Watchmen, Suicide Squad, and the modern Wolverine and the X-Men comics. Equal parts homage and setting its own tone, Umbrella Academy finds a way to meld these comics in a pop-infused, crazy ride across time. While the Marvel shows may be gone, Netflix should never fear. The Umbrella Academy is here.
The story follows a group of children born on the same day with extraordinary powers. Brought together by Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), the group worked together to fight crime. However, Hargreeves was not the most loving father, simply referring to the children by numbers. As the kids aged, they split up and go in drastically different directions. Luther (Tom Hopper) lives on the Moon. Diego (David Castañeda) continues on as a vigilante. Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) has become a world-famous actress. Klaus (Robert Sheehan) became an addict, haunted by his ability to commune with the dead. Vanya (Ellen Page) has no powers but wrote a tell-all memoir about being in the family while she became a professional violist. While they honor their father, Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) suddenly arrives after missing for decades. Lost in time, Number Five brings a warning of the coming Apocalypse within the next week.
The performances from the group are solid, with no performer outshining the team. Each brings their own skillsets, but Gallagher and Sheehan get the most interesting material to work with. These characters experience true trauma and loss the ways the other characters cannot comprehend. Gallagher might edge out the bunch, and his gimmick of being a fifty-year-old man in a teenager’s body never really gets old. It gives him some of the best dialogue and some of the cooler plotlines. The show also lets the characters have their strange powers, but deal with having those powers in extremely different ways. In doing so, you can feel the struggle it takes to use them correctly, or how having the powers may have messed them up over the years.
The show also features some dynamite side characters. Mary J. Blige and Cameron Britton play a pair of hit-men who go on a Rosencrantz & Guildenstern type quest. There is a CGI talking ape Pogo (Adam Godley), a robot mother Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins) and Agnes (Sheila McCarthy), a woman who loves birds and donuts. Kate Walsh looms over the series as the head of a secret organization and has the most fun doing it. These characters get zany, and they feel integral to the show.
However, the real hats off go to Slater, who clearly envisioned this world in its cinematic form. The visual stylings of the show remain consistent throughout, but at the same time, he’s willing to let the show get weird. There’s a stretch in a later episode where a character travels to the afterlife, envisioned as a black and white French film. At other times, it feels like this would be a mashup between Matthew Vaughn’s comic book films with the scripts of co-written by Taika Waititi, Lemony Snicket, and early Guy Ritchie. The show is slick, enjoyable, and builds its world methodically.
The commitment to the style gives characters some extremely fun and personal moments. Sometimes montage gets overused by a tad, but its often in the service of character building. We don’t get too many training montages, and instead, we’re shown these characters experiencing hurt, pain, or a recalibration of their place in the world. Almost everything put into the story has purpose, and that forces the audience to pay attention. The structure of the show is masterful.
Umbrella Academy easily ascends to the pinnacle of Netflix‘s superhero IP list. Frankly, it’s better than most of the pre-existing IPs they’ve ever been able to play with. This show feels fresh and new while digging into the what-ifs of comics we have read our whole lives. By simply raising the question “what would happen if a bunch of teens with superpowers were actually brought together by a weird man in a mansion?” Umbrella Academy lets its characters show true work. This show might be one of the most fun to watch on Netflix right now and joins Sabrina as one of their very best shows on the streaming service.